Student tells of Mexican earthquake experiences

A third-year School of Management student caught up in Mexico’s devastating recent earthquakes tells how he has played a part in the country’s clear-up operation.

Hayden Lefley, a 20 year-old International Management student from Cheltenham, is spending a semester at Puebla state’s Tecnólogico de Monterrey University and was working in his bedroom on the sixth floor when the first earthquake struck in early September.

Hayden had been feeling unwell and at first mistook the shaking room for dizziness. When he saw water splashing from the toilet he realised the whole building was moving and a text from a friend prompted him to get out as quickly as he could.

When the powerful Central Mexico earthquake struck on 19 September the epicentre was much closer to Hayden’s home in Puebla. The magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico City and its surrounding states, killing 369 people and toppling buildings.

Hayden was travelling by bus with a friend when the quake struck. “At first we ignored it because Mexican roads can be very bumpy” he said. “The shaking then got worse and I thought that the bus was going to roll over. I looked from the window and just saw chaos on the streets, people were running everywhere. I will never forget seeing dogs running because they were scared, unfortunately many have not yet been reunited with their families. A large tower was being constructed nearby and the crane was shaking badly, everybody was running in the same direction.

“Mobile phone signals instantly went down and there was no power for Wi-Fi. I had to wait at least two hours before I could let my family know I was safe on Facebook.”

The Tecnólogico de Monterrey University campus was closed while repairs were made to damaged buildings. Five students at its Mexico City campus were killed in the earthquake.

Hayden Lefley worked with other students to help clear debris. Photo credit Oswaldo Cordoba Barrios

Hayden worked with other students to remove fallen bricks and other waste from homes and communal buildings. “Clearing fallen buildings is very tiring work and it’s incredibly dusty, so we’ve had to wear masks to minimise the impact on our breathing. The work that I have been involved in is just the beginning however, and now that many buildings have been cleared the rebuilding process is next in line.

“If anyone would like to help from the UK, I would encourage donations to charities that can help with the rebuilding of homes and provision of building supplies.”

Hayden will be staying on Mexico to complete the remainder of his time at university.

He added: “Disasters like those experienced in Mexico over the last few weeks have encouraged the student community to grow closer and stronger, and I am proud to be a part of that community.”

Benjamin Smith, Head of Placements, Projects and International Studies in the School of Management said: “We are incredibly proud of the resilience shown by Hayden at such a devastating and frightening time. Our BSc International Management course attracts students with an international mindset who are looking to engage with their local communities and help others when on placement or academic exchange. Hayden is a shining example. We are in close contact with him to ensure his welfare and give any help needed for the remainder of his time in Mexico.”

For the latest advice on the situation in Mexico, please refer to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website

The University encourages students to use the Callmy Alert app for delivering and receiving important messages about personal welfare, wellbeing and emergencies. For more information:

Further support for students affected by Mexican earthquakes is available via our Student Services Centre or email

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